I am too young to remember the assassination of John F Kennedy but I have relived the moment every year since it happened through television, magazines, books and stories from my mother. 50 years seems like yesterday. It is a “where were you when…” moment in our country and our history. We have had Presidential assassinations before- Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley- but none were in the camera eye brought to our living rooms in color. From the heartbreaking announcement of anchor Walter Cronkite to the Zapruder film, every horrible moment of that day has played over and over again for 50 years.
We were a country in transition in the 1960′s. We were exploring space. We were fighting the evils of segregation and the threat of Cuba. We were keeping our watchful eye on the Russians. We were exploring the medium called television. We believed our enemies lived across oceans and spoke foreign languages. If you told us that an American would kill our beloved President, we would have never believed it. That all changed on November 22, 1963.
From the moment the shots rang out on that fateful day, our innocence died. The world watched 2 days later as Jack Ruby took the life of Lee Harvey Oswald on live television as the accused assassin was being taken to jail. There was no hiding or make believe and our sense of safety and security was shattered. We became weary of our neighbors and even more weary of people we didn’t know. The world would never be the same. Killing leaders was no longer something that happened somewhere else. It happened here on our soil too. All our hopes were shattered. The sadness of business left unfinished was felt by every American.
In the years since the assassination, we often ask ourselves what if Kennedy had made a different choice that day and skipped Dallas? Would we be different? What would our country look like today? What frontiers would we have opened? What would have happened if we has the chance to ask what we could do for our country? How would our subsequent leaders make decisions if they had the counsel of John Kennedy. Sadly, we will never know.
They were Camelot and like King Arthur, JFK fell. Jacqueline Kennedy was quoted as saying “There’ll be great Presidents again but there’ll never be another Camelot again … it will never be that way again.”
As we remember this dark day in our history, I wish that you continue to Rest in Peace Mr. President… You are left us too soon..
Dear Kwame Kilpatrick,
In the Adele song “Rolling in the Deep” the singer laments to a lost love “We could have had it all”. As I listened to Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds hand down your sentence I thought those words were appropriate. I was saddened by your sentence, not because I don’t think you deserve it but because of the promise you threw away. You were a young black man who had an opportunity not afforded to many. You had the chance to make a real difference. You were the dream of Dr. King. But like many black men of your generation, you squandered your future opting to do wrong rather than remain on the straight, narrow path.
It wasn’t just about the money. It was about trust. The worst criminals are those who prey on the weak. You and your minions are no better than the common thief who robs little old ladies on check day. You took advantage of citizens who could not get away from what was happening in the city. You took food out of the mouths of the children of people who were trying to stay and make a living in the city of Detroit. You took away the livelihood of people who put you in office. Every time someone marks your name in the voting booth, they are taking your hand and saying “I trust you. I trust you will take care of me and those I care about.” You failed to protect that trust.
People knew if they didn’t pay, they didn’t play. Those who wouldn’t pay were cast aside. Most of those who couldn’t pay were simply put out of business. You treated the City of Detroit like it was Bank of Kilpatrick, lining the pockets of your family and friends without regard to the needs of the people. You were like a spider, weaving a giant web that ensnared everyone near you. No one was safe from the damage of SuperStorm Kwame. You thought you were untouchable. You tried to have your cake, forced other to give you their cake and ate it all too. You lied over and over again including under oath. Your lawyer smarts didn’t tell you that liars eventually get caught. You ruined the careers of most who crossed your path. From police captains to City Council representatives to Attorneys to contractors to your Chief of Staff, all were left in your wake and you never looked back. You even managed to get your Mother removed from her job in Congress. But the saddest victims of all are your children. No matter how hard you try to shield them your misdeeds are public knowledge and they will carry your name for the rest of their lives. Instead of being able to proudly say “My Dad was Mayor of Detroit”, they will say “My Dad is in prison”. In this electronic age they will know how you carried on with women who were not their mother and they will be able to read the proof of those affairs through the text massages that are now public record. They will read how you manipulated everyone around you to get them to do your dirty work. They will see the man you really are.
As you go to prison to begin your 28 year sentence, I hope you think about the true cost of your misdeeds. I hope that knowledge will weigh as heavily on you as your misdeeds weigh on the city you left behind. I hope when your sons come to visit, you don’t glorify your stay in prison by talking up all of the great things you are doing but instead you express to them how you are going to miss teaching them to drive, their basketball games, their first dates, their proms, their high school and college graduations, their weddings, the births of their children and all of the important moments in their lives. I hope you will tell them how you will not be there to take care of their grandparents as they grow old. I hope you will teach them that what you did is no way to take care of the woman you vowed your life to. I hope you will express to them that the only way to avoid your fate is honest, hard work and never betraying those who trust you.
As the prison door closes behind you, hopefully the door will close on this terrible chapter in the city’s history. Those left in your wake are trying to pick themselves up and move on. As you sleep each night and wake each morning in your tiny cell and prison wear I hope it is a stark reminder for you that you “could have had it all”…..
When I was growing up, my father often sat me on his knee and told me stories of the Civil Rights Movement. Being a man from the South, the movement was a cause that was near and dear to his heart. Any occasion was an opportunity to retell the stories of the movement. I heard the stories so often I felt as if I knew Medger Evers, Emmitt Till, Martin Luther King, Jr., Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, Viola Liuzzo and countless others. But the one story that has stayed with me more than all the others was the story of 4 Little Girls from Birmingham Alabama who were killed in church while attending Sunday School.
I was heartbroken by the sadness in my father’s eyes each time he told me the story of Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole and Denise. Addie Mae, Carole and Cynthia were 14 years old, Denise was 11. He told me the story of how on September 15, 1963 they left their homes that Sunday morning and went to the 16th Street Baptist Church to attend Sunday School. As they were in the basement bathroom preparing for the lesson to begin, some men threw bombs through a window. The bombs exploded and Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole and Denise were killed. Addie Mae’s sister Sarah survived but was very badly injured. My father showed me images of the girls in Jet and Ebony magazines that he had saved. Of all the girls, I was drawn to Denise. I thought how she was no different than me. Smiling face with Shirley Temple curls and bangs, playing with her doll and dressed in her Sunday best with ankle socks and patent leather shoes. But she was innocent and she was gone because of hate and cowardice.
I realized at a young age There But For the Grace of God Go I. Decisions my parents made before I was born set my life on a different path. Had my parents stayed in the South, I could have ended up the same as Denise.
In the years since, I have often wondered what would have become of Denise. What would her life had been like had she been late for church that day? Would she would have become a journalist or a doctor or a lawyer or a preacher? Maybe, like her classmate Condolezza Rice, she would have become a diplomat or politician. Maybe she would have married and been Mom and Grandma. Her loss is the world’s loss.
Almost a year after the girls deaths, the United States passed the Civil Right Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination and segregation on the basis of color, religion and gender. The Act abolished the rule of Jim Crow in the South.
50 years later, we don’t think much about the sacrifices of Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, Denise, Medger, Martin, Viola, Emmitt, James, Andrew, Michael and many whose names are known only to their families and God. We no longer celebrate Black History and most of our young people don’t know of the bravery and sacrifice these people made for us. I always hope that Denise and her friends, Addie Mae, Cynthia and Carole are not disappointed in the direction we have taken. They sacrificed the most for the salvation of us all.
I hope they still see hope in all of us.
12 years ago, I woke up to a beautiful day. The temperature was cool, no breeze and the sky was as blue as I had ever seen it. It’s what we in aviation call Clear and a Million, skies so clear you can see a million miles. I remember looking out the window and thinking God doesn’t make days more perfect than this. I was looking forward to going to my job at Metro Airport and spending that perfect day outside with the airplanes. I turned on the Today show to see what was going on in the world and there was a commercial on. I settled on the bed, thought about a cup of coffee when the show came back on with an image of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York with a hole in the side and smoke and flames shooting out. The initial story was that a small plane had hit the tower and immediately the questions started. How did this happen on a day that was “Clear and a Million”? How is it possible a plane was that close to the towers? Did the pilot have a medical issue that caused the crash? Perhaps Air Traffic Control had given a bad routing or maybe the pilot lost radio contact. How many people were in the tower?
I got on the phone and called my friend. “Hey did you hear? A plane hit the World Trade Center! That guy must have been drunk!” I exclaimed. She said she had not heard but she was just getting settled in the office. As I described the images on my TV, another plane came into view. I described how there was “another plane and it was flying…you know it looks like…it’s heading to…OH NO…that plane hit the other tower of the World Trade Center”. Something was going on. Something crazy was happening. My friend said she couldn’t get on the internet but she was going to try to get some TV reception. Before she put the phone down there was word of an explosion at the Pentagon and people were running from the building. We knew something was horribly wrong.
My husband (well we weren’t married at the time) was a fearless man. He feared no man, no thing. When he came into the room and asked what was going on, the look on his face and in his eyes told me it was time to be frightened. I told him I didn’t know but it looked like an attack on our country. My friend came back to the phone after she got the TV working and he told me to stay on the phone with her until her boss got there. For the next hour we sat in silence as we watched the TV coverage go from New York to Washington. We heard the words Terrorist Attack for the first time. We spoke no words as the towers came down and we listened in horror to reports of a 4th plane being hijacked and later crashing in Pennsylvania.
We were stunned by the images of people jumping from windows of the World Trade Center because they had no other choice, people who were burned and injured, Firefighters covered in debris and ash and we started to hear the names of people who were in the towers and on the flights. Father Michael Judge was the first person to perish in the towers and be recovered. Schoolchildren on a trip to Los Angeles were on the plane that went into the Pentagon. Others on the 4 planes included a former news analyst, business people, families, pilots, flight attendants, newlyweds and soon to be parents. Cantor Fitzgerald, Aon Consulting, Marsh and McClennan, Windows on the World and Port Authority became household names. We spent the day watching as photos of the missing began to be posted and we cried with distraught families as they searched for loved ones. No one was immune from the grief of the day. It wasn’t just Americans killed, it was people from all over the world. Even if you didn’t know anyone personally, there was probably someone from your town, your city, your county, your state or country who was killed.
We felt the pain as we listened to phone conversations and voicemail messages ”I’m on a Plane that has been Hijacked”, “Good Bye”, “I Love You”, “Take Care of the Family”, “Have a Wonderful Life”, “Tell the Children I Love Them”, “I Love You Mom and Dad” .
By the end of the day we heard that almost 3,000 people left their homes, families, friends and loved ones never to return. The world we knew a few hours earlier had changed forever.
And from the darkness that overtook that perfect day, we cheered the determination of a plane full of passengers who refused to sit by and let the terrorists have their way. We cheered Firefighters and Police Officers who came together to search for loved ones and brothers in arms.
Our parents and grandparents always remembered December 7, 1941. For this generation September 11, 2001 will be our day that lives in infamy.
13 Major league baseball players joined a long and infamous list of athletes who have been found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. Even though these athletes know they will be tested, the ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude got the best of these players and now it’s going to put a cramp in their pockets.
What is more sad, however, is these athletes have been living a lie, Everything they have, every dollar they have made was all based on a lie. They did not play an honest game and received gains not based on talent but on drugs. The worst part is they are raising children who will believe its OK to cheat as long as you don’t get caught.
Parents who take on the attitude that if you’re not number one, you’re a loser have perpetuated a dangerous precedent. You no longer get to be successful by talent and practice. You just have the take the right combination of pills and shots and you will be great and make a lot of money.
When I was growing up, there was a saying, It doesn’t matter if you when or lose, it’s how you play the game. I guess in 2013 the saying is it is whether you win and don’t get caught if you cheat.
It’s a baby boy for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This is exciting times for Britons everywhere because the birth of this baby means the Monarchy will continue, unless it is somehow overthrown. What makes this even more interesting is this is the first heir to the British throne born in the electronic age. When his father Prince William of Wales, Duke of Cambridge was born there was no internet, no Facebook or Twitter, and very little satellite television. CNN was a young 24 hour news channel and you could only watch HBO through an antenna on the roof of the house. Computers were huge machines used by businesses that had to have their own buildings and there was no digital music or iPods. When his grandfather, the Prince of Wales was born, there were very few homes with television.
This baby will grow up in a world where everything in his life and the life around him will happen immediately. It will be everywhere all at once. Everyone has a camera. There won’t be any hiding family secrets or pretending there’s no elephant in the room. He will be able to instantly access the history of his family. He will be able to see video of his late grandmother and hear her voice and he will be able to read stories and see video of his Mother and Father’s wedding. He will see himself before he was born. He will see the good, the bad and the ugly and there won’t be any shielding him from the events that are his history. He will date, marry, start a family and one day be King all in the instant camera eye. Everyone will know at the same time.
What will this world be like when he is his father’s age? History tells us it will be more dynamic than it is today. Welcome to the world sweet Prince. The world is waiting for you (and watching).